Military News

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Panetta Welcomes Chinese Vice President to Pentagon

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta yesterday welcomed Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to the Pentagon with full military honors for what was the first ceremony of its kind for a visiting vice president, Defense Department officials said.

Neither Panetta nor Xi spoke publicly at the ceremony, where they took the reviewing stand before formations of the four military services on the Pentagon’s River Terrace parade field. The ceremony began with a 19-gun salute and the playing of the Chinese, then the American, national anthems on what was an unseasonably warm winter day.

Panetta and Xi met privately after the ceremony and had a “wide-ranging discussion” in which they “affirmed that a healthy, stable and reliable military-to-military relationship is an essential part of President [Barack] Obama's and President Hu [Jintao]'s shared vision for building a cooperative partnership,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement following the meeting.

“They agreed on the need for enhanced and substantive dialogue and communication to foster greater understanding and expand mutual trust,” Little said.

Xi called visits between then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and his Chinese counterpart last year successful, and expressed support for a similar exchange between Panetta and his Chinese counterpart, he said.

Xi urged both sides to maintain and strengthen practical exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries, and Panetta highlighted humanitarian assistance and counterpiracy efforts as productive areas for deepening cooperation between the United States and China, Little said. Both agreed that the two militaries should discuss the specifics of a program of future exchanges, he added.

Xi’s Pentagon visit was part of a packed day here that started with a meeting with Obama in the White House and included a luncheon with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and dinner at the Naval Observatory with Vice President Joe Biden, his wife, Jill, and Panetta.

Biden invited Xi here as the latest in increasing senior-level diplomatic exchanges between U.S. and Chinese officials. Yesterday’s meetings focused primarily on economic and trade issues and included U.S. congressional and corporate leaders. Xi is traveling to Iowa today to visit U.S.-based businesses.

Following their visit yesterday, Obama said mutual interest and respect between the United States and China is “in the interest of the world.”

The bilateral meetings have allowed the countries to improve both their economic and strategic relationship, “and also manage areas of tension in a way that is constructive,” Obama said. The discussions have allowed them to work together on “hotspot” issues involving the Korean peninsula and Iran, he said.

“Throughout this process, I have always emphasized that we welcome China’s peaceful rise, that we believe that a strong and prosperous China is one that can help to bring stability and prosperity to the region and to the world,” Obama said. “And we expect to be able to continue on the cooperative track that we’ve tried to establish over the last three years.”

Xi said yesterday he hopes the discussions would continue to move the two countries “along in the right direction.”

“I hope to engage with a broad cross-section of American society during my current visit, so as to deepen mutual understanding, expand consensus, strengthen cooperation, and deepen the friendship between the Chinese and American people,” he said.

Biden yesterday noted during the State Department meeting that U.S. officials “strongly disagreed” with China’s veto in recent days of a U.N. resolution against Syrian President Bashad al-Assad.

Topics that were discussed during the bilateral talks included Syria, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, South Asia, maritime security, cybersecurity, nuclear security, climate change and cooperation between two militaries, he said.

Agreement has Navy Reservists anchored to the Mississippi Guard for three years

By Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Ed Staton
Mississippi National Guard

JACKSON, Miss. -- Although Air Force and Navy personnel may fly or swim to the beat of a different drummer, members of the Mississippi Air National Guard's 172nd Airlift Wing and the State's U.S. Naval Reserve unit are now working together and finding out how much they have in common.

With the goal of benefitting from various aspects of joint training, based 172nd AW has signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Naval Reserve Navy Operational Support Center from Meridian to host Navy Reservists for training at their air base. The three-year agreement marks the second time these two organizations have partnered through an MOU.

In what was described as a great pioneering and tremendous learning experience before, the Naval Reserve unit trained with the unit at Thompson Field for several years in the mid-1990s. The initiative was initially spurned by the closure of the Navy Reserves training center that was located only a few miles from the 172nd AW's location.

"Aviation is what it is and so is surface transportation and logistics," said Naval Reserve Commander, Capt. Eduardo Martinez. "It all comes to a common sense denominator. It's about people and saving lives and saving dollars. Mississippi is light years ahead of other states because we've already proven it can be done."

The mutual benefits are also expressed by 172nd AW commander, Air Force Brig. Gen. William J. Crisler Jr. who has received positive feedback from his staff members who have had Navy personnel augment their forces during a drill weekend.

"The commander of our medical clinic told me to please let them come back," said Crisler, who says he sees great value in the MOU agreement. "We've been doing this for a long time. We think this a great training opportunity and it's an opportunity to further the joint concept."

Along with creating more familiarity between the two services, combining the two forces eight months per year provides cost-saving measures.

Many of the Navy Reserve personnel selected to train at the 172nd AW live within easy commuting distance of Thompson Field. Therefore, they avoid having to make the 90-mile drive to the Naval Air Station in Meridian and the expense of per diem and lodging.

As the signing of the MOU approached, Navy Reservists had already begun augmenting Air National Guardsmen at Thompson Field. 25 Navy personnel were at the air base the weekend that the partnership was signed and plans are in place to increase that number.

Besides the benefits associated with attending drills close to home, Navy Reservists say they have enjoyed the hospitality and the tremendous training environment found at the 172nd.

"It's a rewarding experience. We're getting hands-on training and finding out how many of their job tasks are equivalent to ours," said Navy Reservist, Petty Officer First Class Carl Randall.

"We've had guys working with the Air Guardsmen in what I call their survival shop on flotation devices, in the medical clinic and more," he said. "These people have welcomed us and have helped us to get settled in and we appreciate that."

With the economy dictating present and future cost-saving measures being implemented throughout our military, there is a belief that this Mississippi based joint-training initiative will be recognized and modeled.

"This will probably be the leading edge of technology and leadership," Martinez said. "We had an inquiry from the North Carolina Guard in 1996 under the first MOU. They saw an article that had been written about us and they wanted to go ahead and mimic the same program. It was very successful in the past and we know how to take it to the future."

National Guard celebrates resilience milestone

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

The 1,000th National Guard master resilience trainer (MRT) will graduate this week from the National Guard MRT Training Center-Wisconsin, located in the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Wisconsin Military Academy at Fort McCoy, Wis.

"This is a big deal for the Army National Guard," Lt. Col. Maureen Wiegl, division chief of Soldier and Family Support at the National Guard Bureau, said by videoconference during a Feb. 13 ceremony at the MRT Training Center, formerly referred to as Guard Resilience University. "We truly believe that comprehensive Soldier fitness and the well-being of Soldiers and families depends greatly on the success of this program."

Resilience itself has been described as the ability to bounce back from adversity, once thought an uncommon trait but now known to be learnable and teachable. The master resilience trainer program is a train-the-trainer component of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, a program launched in 2009 designed to measure and improve resilience and psychological health across five dimensions - emotional, family, social, physical and spiritual. A recent Army report indicates that Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is producing positive results.

"Resilience is tied to readiness," Lt. Col. Denise Walker, resilience branch chief of the National Guard Bureau's division of Soldier and Family Support, said by videoconference. "As you prepare your units for training, as you prepare them for deployment or stateside mission, we need to make sure their head is in the right place and that they are strong enough to endure any challenges they are faced with."

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard and an early collaborator in building a master resilience trainer course in Wisconsin, asked students in the MRT course to consider what they were learning in the context of the National Guard motto, "Always Ready, Always There."

"A key element of that mission readiness is individual Soldier readiness," Anderson said. "You cannot achieve that if the Soldier is not battle-focused on his or her training, but he or she cannot accomplish that if they are dealing with a multitude of other issues in their life.

"Ultimately, the weakest link in the chain is going to affect the entire strength of the chain," Anderson continued. "When it comes to organizational readiness, if one Soldier is focused on an issue or problem that he or she is having at home, and not able to focus on the training at hand, it ultimately affects that unit and that unit's readiness."

The Ohio and Michigan National Guard organizations provided master resilience trainers to help the MRT Training Center conduct its courses. Col. Chip Tansill, chief of staff for the Ohio Army National Guard, said that his organization takes this program seriously.

"Our assistant adjutant general has made taking care of Soldiers, Soldier readiness, the number one priority in our state," Tansill said by videoconference. "The skill sets that you are learning and our Soldiers are learning are just immeasurable at this point because every single Soldier counts, every family member counts."



Col. James Bartolacci, chief of staff for the Michigan Army National Guard, said his organization hoped to establish its own MRT training center.

"In order to do this, you have to have a vision," Bartolacci said by videoconference. "NGB and Wisconsin, you guys had the vision in comprehensive Soldier fitness, worked through the MRT process and realized that we had to have a vision. Without a vision we would fail, and we aren't about failing our Soldiers."

Col. Kenneth Koon, Wisconsin Army National Guard chief of staff, and Lt. Col. Andrew Ratzlaff of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 426th Regional Training Institute - which operates the Wisconsin Military Academy - developed the plan for what became the MRT Training Center in August of 2010. They presented that plan to the National Guard Bureau the following month, and in November received the green light to proceed. The Wisconsin Army National Guard assembled a mobile training team to conduct resilience training assistant training for more than 200 students in San Diego in April of 2011, and conducted two RTA courses at WMA in June of 2011. A pilot MRT course was held at WMA in July 2011 in preparation for the very first MRT class conducted by the National Guard in August 2011.

Bartolacci also urged the MRT students to not just teach the skills they have learned, but live them.

"You have to be that example," Bartolacci said.

2nd Lt. Leslie Bamba, a member of Troop G, 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment in the Tennessee Army National Guard, was the youngest Soldier enrolled in the class containing the 1,000th MRT.

"I've learned a lot," Bamba said. "I think there's a lot of really good stuff that [Soldiers in Tennessee] can apply, not only with their Soldier requirements and responsibility but a lot of stuff they can use in their daily lives to make them better, stronger people.

Sgt. 1st Class Rodgie Parker, a member of the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in the Alabama Army National Guard, was the Soldier with the most time in service enrolled in this course. He said he plans to assist his unit commander, who completed the MRT course at Fort Jackson, S.C.

"I learned a little bit about me," Parker said. "At my point in my career there are still plateaus and still places I want to go from here."

Maj. Sylvia Lopez, a trainer at the MRT Training Center and emcee for the ceremony, noted that the National Guard began its master resilience trainer program in late 2009 when its first trainer was certified. Over the course of the next 21 months the National Guard added close to 590 master resilience trainers across the nation through courses at the University of Pennsylvania, Fort Jackson and active Army mobile training teams. During the past seven months, the MRT Training Center added 411 certified MRTs to that total. In that time, Lopez said she has seen initial student resistance to the resilience concept decrease.

"What that tells me is that the MRTs are getting out there doing their job and helping deliver resilience training or producing resilience training assistants," Lopez said. "People are a lot more open to it, and very eager. There are still some who are skeptical, and that's okay. We encourage that, because we really want to show them that the skills do work. Usually by day three or four we see a turnaround. Our most avid skeptics turn out to be our best promoters of the program."

When Lopez began her master resilience training with 14 other Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers at the University of Pennsylvania in January of 2010, she didn't imagine that two years later she would be celebrating the 1,000th National Guard master resilience trainer.

"I think that really speaks to the collaboration of all these folks," she said of the various National Guard representatives taking part in the ceremony. "Without this collaborative effort, we would not be here."

Face of Defense: Adjutant General Wins Charity Sled Dog Race

By Army Sgt. Michelle Brown
Alaska National Guard

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Feb. 15, 2012 – The crisp winter air covered the glistening trail as Alaska’s adjutant general raced to the finish line and victory during the "Top Brass" charity sled dog race here Feb. 11.

Army Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus along with five senior leaders representing all branches of the U.S. military participated in a three-mile dog sled race to determine who would be named the "top brass."

Each participant was assigned a three-dog team and musher from last year's "Top Dog" charity sled dog race to serve as a mentor.

"This was excellent and really fun," Katkus said. "About 100 yards into the trail, you don't hear anything except the dogs breathing and the sounds of the sled runners going down the trail."

Katkus and his team of world-champion athletes rose to the challenge and won the race with a course time of 9:28, nearly a minute faster than his fellow competitors. The general credited the win to his superior teammates: Cooper, Eeyore and Lizzy.

"This was my first time mushing, but I had a team of veteran dogs in front of me, keeping me on the sled," he said. "I also followed the advice I was given to just hang on to the sled and the dogs will do the work for you."

ExxonMobil made a $20,000 contribution to the Wounded Warrior Project, a program designed to honor and empower wounded warriors by raising awareness, helping injured service members and providing them a variety of additional services.

"I would like to thank ExxonMobil on behalf of all of the military," Katkus said. "I want to convey the importance of their donation and how it's going to change people's lives for the better."

The "Top Brass" Charity Dog Sled Race was held as part of the 39th annual ExxonMobil Open. The race has been an Alaska tradition since 1973. Aaron Stryk, ExxonMobil public and government affairs advisor, said the race is designed to pay tribute to the official sport of Alaska, while highlighting the invaluable institutions that give so much to the community.

In particular, he added, the race sponsors want to show appreciation to the nation’s wounded warriors who have given so much for their country.

"Thank you for all you do in service to Alaska and our country," Stryk said. "I hope this can be our way of saying thank you."

Navy Names Five New Ships

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the next five Navy ships; three Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers, the USS John Finn, the USS Ralph Johnson, and the USS Rafael Peralta, and two littoral combat ships (LCS), the USS Sioux City and the USS Omaha.

Mabus named the three destroyers after Navy and Marine Corps heroes whose actions occurred during different conflicts which spanned several decades, but were united in their uncommon valor.  The littoral combat ships were named after two American communities.

John Finn, who retired as a lieutenant, received the Medal of Honor from Adm. Chester Nimitz for displaying “magnificent courage in the face of almost certain death” during the Japanese attack on military installations in Hawaii during Pearl Harbor.  Marine Corps Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for shouting a warning to his fellow Marines and hurling himself on an explosive device, saving the life of one Marine and preventing the enemy from penetrating his sector of the patrol’s perimeter during the Vietnam War.  Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Rafael Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for selflessly covering a grenade with his body to save his fellow Marines from the blast during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 “Finn, Johnson and Peralta have all been recognized with some of our nation’s highest awards,” said Mabus.  “I want to ensure their service and sacrifice will be known by today's sailors and Marines and honored for several decades to come by a new generation of Americans and people from around the world who will come in contact with these ships.”

The Arleigh Burke class destroyers will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection.  All three ships will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and will contain a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime warfare in keeping with the Navy’s ability to execute the Department of Defense’ defense strategy.

 “The littoral combat ship is a major part of the future of our Navy,” Mabus said, pointing out LCS is fast, agile, and operates with a smaller crew and can perform operations in both shallow and deep waters.

 “I chose the name for our two new littoral combat ships after Midwestern cities from America’s heartland, to honor the patriotic, hard-working citizens of Sioux City, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska, for their support of and contributions to the military.”

Sioux City and Omaha will be outfitted with reconfigurable payloads, called mission packages, which can be changed out quickly as combat needs demand.  These mission packages are supported by special detachments that will deploy manned and unmanned vehicles and sensors in support of mine, undersea and surface warfare missions.

Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wis., will build the Freedom variant, the USS Sioux City, which will be 378 feet in length, have a waterline beam of 57 feet, displace approximately 3,000 tons, and make speed in excess of 40 knots.  Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., will build the Independence variant, the USS Omaha, which will be 419 feet in length, have a waterline beam of 103 feet, displace approximately 3,000 tons, and make speed in excess of 40 knots.

Media may direct queries to the Navy Office of Information at 703-697-5342.  For more news from secretary of the Navy public affairs, visit http://www.navy.mil/SECNAV .

USS Mason Upgraded with New Chemical Agent Detection Capability

By John J. Joyce, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Public Affairs

DAHLGREN, Va. (NNS) -- A new automated chemical warfare agent detection capability that successfully passed operational tests aboard USS Mason (DDG 87) will be installed on warships throughout the fleet, Navy officials announced Feb. 15.

The Navy plans to install the new system - designed to quickly alert warfighters to the presence of chemical warfare agents - on all active guided-missile destroyers and cruisers, aircraft carriers, large and small deck amphibious ships, littoral combat ships and dry cargo/ammunition ships by the end of 2018.

"IPDS-LR (Improved Point Detection System - Lifecycle Replacement) will provide the Navy continued chemical warfare agent detection, identification and alerting along with the high system reliability they need to perform their mission worldwide," said Bruce Corso, IPDS-LR system manager, office of the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance (JPM NBCCA).

"This successful deployment of the IPDS-LR is a culmination of the work of some great scientists and engineers, collaboration with the joint community, and having waterfront locations that provide continuous fleet interaction," said Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Chemical, Biological and Radiological (CBR) Defense Division Head Mike Purello.

Warfighters aboard Mason - the first guided-missile destroyer (DDG) protected by IPDS-LR - are now relying on a better performing system that features ion mobility spectrometry. This chemical detection technology creates ions that separate by the time it takes the ion clusters to traverse a constant electric field drift region.

"I am excited to have the Improved Point Detection System - Lifecycle Replacement on board," said Mason Commanding Officer Cmdr. Adan Cruz, after testing concluded Jan. 27. "As captain, I hold the responsibility for the safety of the crew and this system provides enhanced chemical warfare defense to ensure our sailors will return home safely."

"The install went extremely well," said Mason Executive Officer Cmdr. Mike Briggs. "Having a reliable chemical detection system onboard to aid in ship's defense goes towards making Mason a more effective warship."

Teams based in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego, Calif., are prepared to install the new system on 35 ships in 2012.

USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110), USS Howard (DDG-83) and USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) are the next ships on NSWCDD CBR Defense Division's schedule for IPDS-LR installation.

"More DDGs will follow," said NSWCDD IPDS-LR Project Lead Brian Flaherty. "The Sailor will see a system they can turn on and be confident it is protecting them. It samples air from outside the ship, evaluates it for the presence of chemical warfare agents and if there's an agent present - IPDS-LR will alert them in an adequate amount of time to take precautionary measures."

IPDS-LR components located on the port and starboard sides of a ship sample air through external intakes in the hull. The system analyzes the external air for chemical agents.

"If the detector identifies a chemical agent, it sends a signal that displays an alert at both the ship's damage control central and the bridge," said Flaherty. "The system also interfaces directly to the ship's chemical alarm, which broadcasts an audible ship-wide alarm to alert the crew of a chemical warfare agent."

IPDS-LR's test and evaluation involved extensive time both in the laboratory and aboard ship - with extensive time at sea as well as an independent underway evaluation by the Navy's commander operational test and evaluation force.

"The new system is more maintainable and reliable," said Flaherty. "Warfighters will see improved false alarm performance and longer periods of time between repairs. It will be easier and cheaper to repair."

Based on a commercial-off-the-shelf concept, a joint team of NSWCDD and JPM NBCCA engineers evaluated IPDS-LR in reliability, availability, and maintainability (RAM) tests emphasizing a Navy shipboard maritime environment.

The team collected more than 14,000 hours of underway and in-port test time supporting the RAM analysis with multiple ships - and ship classes - based in the Norfolk and San Diego areas. Additional data collection continued aboard ships in forward deployed locations.

"It's very rewarding to field this system to the Fleet," said Flaherty, noting that his team conducted "IPDS-LR tests on the Navy side - shock testing, vibration testing, electromagnetic interference - and worked with different groups over two-and-a-half years to make sure the system is ready to field to the warfighter."

"The Navy's CBR Defense Division exists to provide our warfighter with the tools and capabilities necessary to detect, protect, and if necessary, decontaminate threats resulting from a CBR attack," said Purello. "Our direct and active connection with the fleet helps the warfighter and provides a wealth of valuable information for our scientists and engineers in the lab. This knowledge is immediately put to use as they work to create, develop, and provide updates and future solutions for our men and women in uniform."

A Navy leader in CBR Defense, NSWC Dahlgren's CBR Defense Division provides a full complement of capabilities that support the naval warfighter both on land and at sea as well as the joint and Homeland Defense communities.

Live From Kosovo: Watching football overseas a whole ‘nother ballgame

By Sgt. 1st Class Jim Wagner
KFOR15 Public Affairs Office

Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers in Kosovo have been in a funk the past several weeks as we — like most of our state and rational-minded folks everywhere — come to grips with the fact the Green Bay Packers not only did not return to the Super Bowl but were knocked out in the divisional playoff game.

To understand the importance of football games in a deployed environment, you need to understand the conditions we find ourselves in and the logistical and personnel issues we face on a weekly basis. I am admittedly a football junkie in general, and a Packer Backer specifically, so this may or may not apply to your deployed family member or friends.

My Sunday ritual during football season back home goes something like this:

 •wake up late

 •forgo shower, shaving and other hygienic practices

 •promise to feed the kids pizza for lunch if they can just have a bowl of cereal now

 •watch two hours of pre-game shows to get into the proper mindset

 •channel switch from noon to early evening between the AFC and NFC games

 •order pizza for the kids

(Note: If I’m going to a friend’s house or actually lucky enough to get tickets for the game, all but the last two bullets apply.)

On a deployment, the rules change. Instead of a relaxing day at home, most of us are working Sundays so we’re generally up very early to conduct the mission of the day. Our days generally run between eight and 12 hours daily, trying to keep our minds on what we need to accomplish before we can “unplug” and watch football.

Time zones play havoc with football Sunday in Kosovo. Noon games back home are held at a respectable hour of the day … well, noon. Here, we have to wait for the day to end before getting into the football zone — and let me tell you, it’s a little jarring watching a game at 7:30 p.m. and seeing people cheering under the bright afternoon sun.

That’s if you even get to see your game of choice. Overseas, football is broadcast by the Armed Forces Network (AFN), which has the unenviable task of having to pick two games and hope that enough people are interested to watch — and don’t call or e-mail to complain about what’s been picked.

Oh, a note on commercials. In the U.S., commercials are sometimes the best thing about football if your team is tanking badly against their opponent. Super Bowl commercials are sometimes the only reason people tune into the game if they’re not football fans, and are nearly a cultural icon in their own right (I’ll never forget the Bud Light wasabi commercial if I live to be 100).

Overseas, we have the infamous AFN commercials. Created by military members (my career field, in the interests of full disclosure), they are a cross between infomercial and public service announcements ranging from military history to stern reminders of the importance of oral hygiene and to visit your base dentist to keep dental health at its finest.

Now, don’t get me wrong, AFN commercials serve their purpose and are chock-full of Very Useful Information (that capitalization is intentional) — but come on, really, it doesn’t hold a stick to the Mean Joe Green Coca-Cola advertisement, not to mention the EDS Business Associate’s “Cat Herding” spot.

Fortunately, with the Packers’ near-historic run, Wisconsin Soldiers here have been lucky when it comes to watching our games; the Green and Gold was on nearly every week as we got to watch and experience the best team in the NFL romp through the regular season. Unfortunately, with the Packers’ near-historic run, Wisconsin Soldiers here were unlucky enough to watch and experience the same unfathomable performance of the Pack’s one-and-done playoff experience that you did.

Military policies also provide the deployed Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldier with their own little quirks to normal, back-home football Sunday. General Order #1 — specifically the part that prohibits the consumption of alcohol — really interferes with proper tailgating for many a deployed Soldier, while policies also prevent coed get-togethers in any personal living space.

It’s a quandary that we’ve managed to overcome here at Camp Bondsteel. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Hudson, who found himself the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) representative for the brigade — quite by surprise to him — spent hours of his personal time to set up and manage weekly screenings at one of the auditoriums here, giving all Soldiers a common area to watch the games, complete with snacks and refreshments. And regarding alcohol — well, there’s non-alcoholic beer.

Like the Green Bay Packers, you can’t win them all, it seems.

Montel Williams Provides Lunch for Wounded Warriors

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Monique K. Hilley

BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- Montel Williams provided lunch for nearly 100 wounded warriors and their families at the Fisher House in Bethesda, Md., Feb. 13.

Service members and their families were treated to a feast of donated baby back ribs, pulled pork and coleslaw, fried fish cooked by Montel's sister, Marjorie, crab cakes made by his father, Herman, a salad and turkey chili prepared by one of Montel's favorite chefs, Claire Winslow, and green fruit smoothies which Montel prepared himself. Two large patriotic cakes were also donated for dessert.

"This started six trips ago, and now this is trip number seven, and by the time we get done, we'll be at trip number 70 or 80 because I'm going to continue to do this; I think it's just a way for us to give back," said Williams. "Why am I doing this? Because I want to stop people from just paying lip service to 'I support the troops' and understand there is something you can do personally to put a smile on a soldier's face."

The luncheon marked the Williams family's seventh trip to provide lunch at Fisher House for wounded warriors, their family members and the guards on the base.

"These family members come down here and they do what we don't do for those who allow us to live with the dignity we do and the freedom we do," said Williams. "These family members don't ask for anything, they barely even ask for help, they don't even know about Fisher House. Most of the time, Fisher House has to reach out to them and say, look, I have a place for you to stay."

Fisher House has provided help, on average, for 17,000 families a year across the nation at 56 Fisher Houses located nationwide. The houses are located near Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and at all major military medical facilities. The Fisher House in Bethesda has five houses with 72 rooms total.

"We are opening number 57 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska on Friday [Feb. 17], one at the end of the month in Salt Lake City at the VA, and one at Ft. Belvoir on the 22nd of May," said Cindy Campbell, Fisher House Foundation, Inc., vice president for Community Relations and Media Affairs.

"So, we're expanding a great deal. We're also building a Fisher House in Birmingham, England to support British wounded warriors at their hospital. It's our chance to reach out to our allies and thank them for their service, as Americans, and to give back to the British soldiers who have served us so well."

Fisher Houses are free of charge for all family members and caregivers to the wounded warriors, not just spouses, parents or siblings. Family members can stay for any length of time needed, whether that is for a week, six months, or a year. Cindy and all members of the Fisher House Foundation, of which Montel Williams is a trustee, are grateful to have him talking about Fisher House and providing lunches for the families.

"This is a chance for us at Fisher House to thank the families for what they're doing because we all forget that when the military member is wounded, we only tend to think about the price of that injury that has to do with the recovery of the wounded, said Campbell. "The other price is the family because you have the entire family that has now taken on this injury. They're the ones who have to get him through this."

One of the families Fisher House is helping is Deborah Elliott and her husband, Marine Capt. Tommy Elliott, an aviation supply officer assigned to Cherry Point, N.C., who was recently diagnosed with Crohn's disease. The Elliotts, who are expecting their son, Oliver, to be delivered at Bethesda within the next 10 days, have been at Fisher House since Dec. 31, 2011, when Capt. Elliott was admitted to the hospital.

"He was in the hospital for two weeks inpatient care, and he's getting outpatient care, so we've been here for six weeks, said Debbie Elliott. "For the treatment they have my husband on, they're still trying to work everything out because it's such a severe disease. He has to be near the hospital because he's on complete digestive rest, so he can't eat at all and is on a feeding tube and nutrition bag. They said no food for another two to three weeks, but the doctors suggest we are in this area for another six months."

For the Elliotts, charities such as Fisher House can become a long-term solution to what may have quickly become a financial crisis brought on by severe health issues and the expenses that can rack up during those times.

"It has been wonderful that we are here and we've been provided with a place to stay," said Debbie Elliott. "It's really nice to have this facility on base, close to the hospital, where we can come and go as we need to his appointments. It's nice knowing that he's getting treatment, and I'll be getting treatment here shortly for the birth of our son."

Montel Williams providing lunch at Fisher House took some guests by surprise. Montel arrived at nine a.m. to begin preparing and cooking the food, with lunch beginning at noon.

"I didn't expect to wake up and go down to get some breakfast and Montel Williams is in there getting ready for lunch," said Debbie Elliott. "It's just wonderful that he is here and that he supports Fisher House. He's got his own history with the military, so he's very connected to this place."

During the lunch, he chatted with many of the families and let them know how much he appreciated them. As a former enlisted Marine and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with 22 years of service, Montel has a connection to those who are currently serving in the military.

"I spent every single day I could trying my best at the time I was on active duty thinking that I was in every hot spot we had," said Williams. "I have a very strong bond with the guys who still are willing to not have to do so because they were forced by draft, they step up to the plate and volunteer to continue to support and defend my democracy? I mean, come on, what else am I supposed to be doing then what I'm doing here?"

Over the course of the last three years, Williams has been visiting the wounded warriors in Bethesda, Md. almost every month.

"I go and I see them and after about a year, I didn't even know Fisher House existed," said Williams. "I was introduced to one of the board members of Fisher House and was shocked that this is an organization that, number one doesn't have as much media attention as it should because these guys are, in my opinion, the No. 1 wounded warrior charity in the country. They are providing free living space for family members while their loved ones recover in the hospital here and in the course of about nine years now, they've given over 180 million dollars in services just to our fallen Soldiers."

Montel Williams, a former talk show host who has prided himself in leading his life in a way that may serve as an example to others, continues to do that through his work with the Fisher House Foundation.

"I think it's just as important to give lip service to it as it is to give heart to it, to give your personal time to it," said Williams. "I can sit on television and say you need to do this, but unless I bring myself down here and try to show by example and do it again and again and again and again, I don't think it makes sense to people. Then, once they start to see stuff like this, maybe they'll start to realize that 'what did I do last week to say thank you for being free?'"

NAVSUP GLS Supports Shipmates to Workmates Program

By Sam Samuelson, NAVSUP GLS Corporate Communications Director

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Global Logistics Support (GLS) supported more than 300 Sailors exploring government employment during the "Shipmates to Workmates" job fair at Naval Base Coronado Feb. 9.

The job program links Sailors, most of whom are anticipating leaving the Navy due to Enlisted Retention Board (ERB) results, with Department of Navy (DON) agencies seeking the kinds of skills and experiences the Sailors represent.

Record-high retention and low attrition among active duty Sailors for 31 specific ratings, manned at more than 103 percent, prompted the creation of the ERB. The purpose of ERB is to balance the force in terms of seniority, experience and skills, and to improve overall advancement opportunity.

"Shipmates to Workmates" maximizes the skills Sailors have with opportunities and needs that exist throughout the DoN. It's one way the Navy is communicating to Sailors that, force balancing notwithstanding, their skills are still valuable and marketable, according to Joe Bernardo, director, NAVSUP GLS workforce management division.

"There is a lot of skill, talent and enthusiasm in these Sailors and we want them to know that we're interested in exploring a future with them, if we can," Bernardo said.

Sailors attracted by the NAVSUP GLS booth said they were eager to look into alternatives in employment that capitalized on the skills they learned and developed in the Navy.

"I'm just here to see what the Navy is offering in terms of future employment," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator (Mechanical) 1st Class Josh Glennon. "No one likes to be told it's time to go home, but at least they're offering these opportunities. There has been a lot of assistance to ensure there is a safety net."

Lt. Jasmine Gough sought the NAVSUP GLS booth.

"I just love logistics," Gough said. "I don't know, I think I'm a geek for numbers, supply chain management."

The former supply corps school student said she has always gravitated toward logistics.

"If you know what you like, if you know your calling, then that's what you look for," Gough said.

That's the shared hope of coordinators of "Shipmates to Workmates" and the Sailors seeking employment opportunities.

"It's just another way of looking for opportunities no matter what happens in life," said Personnel Specialist 1st Class Manuel Delgado. "I received word from the ERB around Thanksgiving. About the same time, our extended family experienced a tragedy and that's when I told myself, 'I'm young, healthy and have healthy kids. I have a lot to be thankful for.' I already have a job opportunity, so this is great."

As of Jan. 10, 2012, 2,942 Sailors were in a "not selected for retention" status. These Sailors must separate from the Navy no later than Sept. 1, 2012 unless operational waiver approved for later separation date (up to 90 days later).

Representatives from NAVSUP Global Logistics Support included Joe Bernardo, Chachi Gorman and Anthony Goodwin. From NAVSUP FLC San Diego were Linda Willis, Jeffrey Allen and Margie Hontucan.

Comprised of more than 5,700 military and civilian logistics professionals, contractors and foreign nationals, NAVSUP GLS operates as a single cohesive team providing global logistics services from 110 locations worldwide.

A component of the Naval Supply Systems Command, headquartered in Mechanicsburg, Pa., NAVSUP GLS is part of a worldwide network of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel providing combat capability through logistics.

For more information about transition benefits visit the Transition Assistance Web Page available under the Hot Links section of the Navy Personnel Command at www.npc.navy.mil or contact the NPC customer service center at CSCmailbox@navy.mil or 1-866-U-ASK-NPC.

Face of Defense: Wounded Warrior Focuses on Future

By Ben Sherman
Fort Sill Public Affairs

FORT SILL, Okla., Feb. 14, 2012 – Army Staff Sgt. Louis Thompson remembers the day that he saw the end of his active-duty military career.

"The doctor told me that I couldn't do my military job anymore,” Thompson recalled. “I sat in the doctor's office and cried. Forty-one years old and I'm sitting there crying like a baby because all of a sudden my life is about to change in a way that I wasn't prepared for.

"I felt like my feet had been kicked out from under me and I had no purpose as far as the military was concerned," he added.

Thompson said he went through every stage of grief before he accepted the fact that his military career was over.

"I said to myself, 'Wait a minute, I've got one of two choices. I'm either going to sit here feeling sorry for myself or I can figure out a way to make the most of it,’" Thompson said.

Thompson had been medically evacuated out of Iraq in 2008 and has undergone six operations on his knees and feet since then.

"They've reconstructed both of my knees using my own bone and cartilage,” he said.

When Thompson entered the warrior transition unit here he was looking for a plan for the future. He found it in Operation Warfighter, a temporary assignment internship program developed by the Defense Department for service members recovering at military treatment facilities throughout the United States. The program provides wounded, ill or injured soldiers with meaningful activity outside of the hospital environment.

Stacey Dancy serves as transition coordinator for the Fort Sill WTU. Part of her job is work therapy for wounded warriors, and she extends those efforts into the Operation Warfighter program, where she arranges for soldiers to do internships in federal agencies.

"OWF is for active-duty wounded warriors who have not finished their medical hold or retired,” Dancy explained. “What we are trying to do is get with soldiers who are transitioning out and give them the premium spots by letting them work in an internship that is nonpaid, because they are already getting paid as soldiers.

“It is really a win-win for both parties, because the agency gets someone who is really excited to do the job," she added.

It didn't take Thompson long to see the doors Operation Warfighter could open for him.

"As a soldier I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity that they have to help me because I've got a life after the military to think about,” he said. Thompson told Dancy he wanted to work with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The corps was a perfect fit for Thompson, who owned his own business for 12 years while serving in the Oklahoma National Guard. His company took on construction jobs on military and government installations worldwide under government contracts.

"The majority of the work I did was military contract work and run by the Corps of Engineers, so I am very familiar with them. I felt like I had something to offer again," he said.

Dancy agreed that it was a good fit for Thompson. "A lot of time we associate our value with our job and especially as a soldier, when you can't do your [military occupational specialty] you have a low image of yourself," she said. "So it was great for Sergeant Thompson to get a position working with the Corps of Engineers."

Due to his background in project management and safety, Thompson is working through the corps' quality assurance and project management programs here.

While thrilled at the opportunity, Thompson first had to confront some challenges. "I went around with one of the quality assurance guys for a couple of weeks, and the problem with that was, because of my injuries, being on my feet so much really wore me out, because those guys are on their feet constantly,” he said. “It was tough.”

Challenges aside, Thompson said he’s enjoying the work. "I got to meet with the safety manager and it was a match,” he said. “It was perfect. I can use my experience, my construction background and military background as far as safety management goes. I can go out and do something when I get out of the Army.”

Thompson has been in the program for six months, working with Frank Howe, safety representative for the corps, as they oversee the building of Fort Sill's new barracks for soldiers in training.

"Sergeant Thompson appreciates the role of the safety officer and keeping workers safe,” Howe noted. “He has a good eye for being able to do hazard identification in the field.”

Thompson has received his disability retirement rating and is looking to retire at the end of March. He will finish his degree at Cameron University and complete his safety training and certificates so that he can become a safety manager, preferably with the corps, he said.

"The opportunities are out there, and soldiers who have been in the Army for a while, who are mature and know what they want have to take advantage of them,” Dancy noted.

To increase his job opportunities, Thompson has applied for an internship in Korea.

“They are doing a lot of construction over there, building the new facilities at Camp Humphreys and Camp Carroll,” he said. “And it's a nonpaid internship to where I get the experience of working and doing on-the-job training.”

Thompson encouraged other soldiers to find out about programs and resources available to help them transition to civilian life.

"I know that a lot of soldiers who are coming back are hurting, and the last thing they want to hear about is another program,” he said. “But as they work to get back into a normal routine and be a part of society, there are programs they will be able to look at and take advantage of.

"If I could give one message to every soldier,” he continued, “it would be that nobody is going to give it to you if you don't get out and look for it and take advantage of it yourself."

Navy SEALs, SWCCs Meet Prospective NFL Players

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker, Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Public Affairs

BALTIMORE (NNS) -- Members of the East Coast SEAL (sea, air, and land) and SWCC (special warfare combat crewman) scout team met with prospective National Football League players at the Eastern Regional NFL Combine in Baltimore Feb 11.

The Navy has formed a mutual partnership with the NFL to raise career opportunity awareness about the U.S Navy and its special warfare programs for potential non-selected NFL draftees.

"Unfortunately, not all the players will get a chance to enter the 2012 NFL draft," said Master Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Shawn Johnson. "The SEAL and SWCC programs offer these guys other potential opportunities that they may not have thought about before."

At the conclusion of each of the offensive and defensive tryout sessions, the team of Navy SEALs and SWCCs presented a brief on special warfare programs, and spoke about the linkages between special warfare operators and professional athletes.

"They make sacrifices, they work in a team oriented environment, they know how to push themselves and train towards a goal," said Johnson. "They're characteristics we look for in SEAL and SWCC candidates."

The SEAL and SWCC scout team discussed how a football player's background correlates with the characteristics and values of potential SEAL candidates.

"Our partnership with the SEAL and SWCCs scout team is a great thing," said Stephen Austin, NFL director of operations for the NFL League Office in New York. "It's implanting a thought that may enable these players to commit to an even higher goal"

HSV2 Swift Visits GTMO to Load Project Handclasp Supplies

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Justin Ailes Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV) 2 arrived at Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to receive supplies in support of Project Handclasp, Feb. 14.

NS Guantanamo Bay served as the consolidation point for receiving, storing, and staging more than 160 pallets of donated humanitarian aid products and materials. Before being loaded on the Swift, the goods were prepared for manifest and customs declarations for entry into foreign countries where the cargo will be delivered.

"This operation takes a year of preparation to logistically support these donations," said NS Guantanamo Bay Transportation Officer Candace Keller. "Receiving, storing and coordinating movement to a hub such as GTMO requires a plan involving organizations and American citizens coming together with the U.S. Navy."

Project Handclasp is a joint Department of Defense (DoD) and private sector humanitarian mission to receive, collect, consolidate and store humanitarian, educational and goodwill material for transport by naval vessels. The humanitarian goods are distributed by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel to foreign nation recipients.

"I have been working with this program since 2002 to support the Caribbean deliveries to the southern countries needing humanitarian support," said Keller. "It's about what America represents as a people loving, caring nation that works together with our military, civilians and government contractors to bring aid and assistance to less fortunate people."

The humanitarian materials will be distributed to the still recovering nation of Haiti later this month.